Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3389 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
amendments is to attempt to impose a different definition of the precautionary principle in the ACT bill from that applied in the Commonwealth act. The Commonwealth act applies a definition adopted in the 1992 Rio Declaration on the Environment and Development. I will repeat that for the benefit of members. The Commonwealth act applies a definition adopted in the 1992 Rio Declaration on the Environment and Development, which is the preferred wording internationally, for the precautionary principle.
The current reference to the precautionary principle in the act states that the object of the act is to be achieved through a regulatory framework which provides that, where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, a lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.
To amend section 4 of the bill in the manner suggested by Ms Tucker strikes at the core principles underpinning the objects of the legislation. Any amendment to section 4 would undoubtedly mean that the ACT legislation would no longer be declared a corresponding state law for the purposes of the nationally agreed gene technology regulatory framework.
The effect of this would be that the Commonwealth act would still apply in the ACT. However, there would be gaps in the reach of the Commonwealth act, and it would leave particular dealings with GMOs completely unregulated in the territory. That would be the effect of Ms Tucker's amendments, if they were successful. The government considers this approach to be irresponsible and unacceptable.
The amendments by Ms Tucker are an attempt to reopen the debate raised in the Commonwealth parliament when the Commonwealth act was passed. The attempt to remove the words "cost-effective"was lost on that occasion, and the government will not be supporting it today.
I will explain, through use of an example, what Ms Tucker's amendments would mean. Whereas currently decisions about whether or not GMOs should be introduced into the environment are to be made on cost-effective grounds, if that cost-effective definition were removed, it would be possible, for example, to require under the act the complete removal of all of Australia's wheat crops, to prevent damage by GMOs-simply because a GMO had been introduced into the environment and had harm had been done.
Removing cost-effectiveness removes a rational application of the precautionary principle and simply requires you to do absolutely everything, regardless of how rational it is or otherwise. That is not an acceptable course of action.
At the end of the day, if these amendments are passed, it will mean that there will be parts of the genetically modified organism sector that will potentially not be covered by the Commonwealth act and our act will not be able to be applied to them. It will mean that parts of the GM industry will potentially be unregulated in the ACT. Is it seriously the intention of the Greens to leave open the prospect of no regulation of parts of the GM industry? I am strongly advised that that is the implication of passing these amendments today.